My first game had me on board 1, taking on Grandmaster Alexander Fishbein. The game took five hours, and though I lost, it was a reasonably well-fought game on my behalf.
Well – I wish I could say that a week of intensive study and deep preparation paid off, but I simply had a rough outing at the Pittsburgh Open this past weekend. Only scoring 1/4 in the top section, the weekend’s performance showed me that the road to becoming a master and playing for the US Junior Open is a lot longer than I had anticipated.
While there were a lot of negatives for me in this event, I did want to share my second round match-up.
Steincamp–Opaska (Pittsburgh Open, 2016)
1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 g6 4.e3 Bg7 5.d4
Once again I opted for this c4-d4-e3 set-up, it’s really easy to play since it’s mostly intuitive. I knew my opponent can play the English, so going for this meant there was a greater chance he wasn’t familiar with the opening.
5…cxd4 6.exd4 d6 7.d5
Already, I have vast central control, and it’s up to Black to come up with solutions. The computer already loves my position, since Black must now decide on an awkward knight move.
7…Nb8 8.h3 Nh6 9.Bd3 O-O 10.O-O Na6 11.Re1 Nc5 12.Bg5
Willing to give up the bishop pair if it means provoking …f7-f6.
12…f6 13.Bf4 Nf7 14.Bf1
I thought this was a good decision when compared to Bc2. I decided that Black having a light squared bishop is inconvenient since going to f5 would block in the dark squared bishop, so going to c2 where a trade was possible wasn’t as appealing.
I was super happy when I saw this, I thought after 14… a5 then …Ne5, Black had a respectable position. Now the pawn on d6 is a major liability.
15.dxe6 Nxe6 16.Bh2 f5 17.Nb5 Bxb2 18.Rb1
I will win the pawn on d6, so in this trade, I got an opportunity to claim the half-open b-file. Black’s lack of development makes his position quite uncomfortable.
18…Bg7 19.Nxd6 Nxd6
And the initiative is all mine. I had calculated 19… f4 (I suppose this was Black’s intention after f5), 20. Nxf7 Qxd1 21. Rbxd1 Rxf7 22. Rd6 and if 22… Re7 the f4 pawn is hanging and I have the option of 23. Ng5 and Black’s lack of development is a real problem.
20.Bxd6 Re8 21.Qd5 Kh8 22.Ne5 Qh4 23.g3 Qf6
He didn’t play this the first time around, so I had prepared a fun line 23.. Qh5 24. Be2 Qxh3 25. Nf7+ Kg8 26. Ng5 Qh6 27. Bf4 and black is losing thanks to the pin on the knight and discovery soon to happen on the queen on h6.
24.f4 h6 25.h4 Kh7 26.Nf3?
Pressed for time, I made this mistake, which relieved too much pressure. 26. c5 is so much cleaner, since …g6-g5 isn’t really a problem. Once the h-file opens, I can just play Re1-e2-h2 and have a comfortable grip on the position.
26…Rd8 27.Rbd1 Nd4?? 28.Rxd4
A mistake in mutual time trouble. As you may have noticed, while the computer evaluation is roughly equal before the knight blunder, it is difficult to find constructive moves for Black.
My only point of the weekend, but hopefully the short-term disappointment will lead to long-term success. I have a match for the Universtiy of Pittsburgh in two weeks, and I don’t intend to let that one go.